Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP)


The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) aims to ensure that Australians from low SES backgrounds who have the ability to study at university have the opportunity to do so. It provides funding to assist universities listed in Table A of the Higher Education Support Act 2003 to undertake activities and implement strategies that improve access to undergraduate courses for people from low SES backgrounds, as well as improving the retention and completion rates of those students.


The Australian Government's proposed higher education reform package remains in the Senate. The Government is currently considering options as reforming the higher education system remains a priority, both to maintain and enhance Australia's world-class higher education sector, and to ensure future funding arrangements remain sustainable, in line with the reforms announced in the 2017‑18 Budget. For current information, visit the Government's reform package webpage. These reforms include reforms to HEPPP.

HEPPP Reforms - 2017-18 Budget

The Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP) will be reformed to deliver two components—an Access and Participation Fund that involves a loading for each eligible low SES student, with performance funding for improvements in success rates of low SES and Indigenous students, and a National Priorities Pool.

From 1 January 2018, the Government will reform HEPPP into two components—the Access and Participation Fund and the National Priorities Pool. The Participation and Partnership components of HEPPP will be combined to form the Access and Participation Fund, with universities required to allocate a minimum amount of funding to partnership activities.

Funding from the Access and Participation Fund will be provided in two streams:

  • a legislated loading of $985 (indexed) per low SES student will be introduced to provide funding that is certain, calibrated to university need and will facilitate longer term planning and projects, and
  • performance funding ($13.3 million per year indexed) for universities that improve their average success rates for low SES or Indigenous students.

The National Priorities Pool will have an allocation of $9.5 million per year (indexed) and will have a greater focus on rigorous evaluative research and encourage outreach collaboration between universities.

The proposed reforms will also increase accountability through better development of a HEPPP evaluation framework and streamline administrative and reporting requirements.

These HEPPP reforms will support broader higher education reform and respond to the 2016 HEPPP program evaluation.

HEPPP Budget

$ millions





Total 2017-18 – 2020-21

Budget 2017-18






HEPPP Evaluation

In 2016 the Department commissioned ACIL Allen Consulting, in partnership with Wallis Consulting Group, to evaluate the Higher Education Participation and Partnerships Program (HEPPP).

The evaluation report is available at the link below:

HEPPP Evaluation Final Report

The Australian Government response to the evaluation report is set out in the HEPPP reforms.  

The evaluation found that the HEPPP has provided wide ranging support to a large number of students and institutions between 2010 and 2015.

  • Some 2,679 projects were implemented at the 37 eligible universities.
  • Over 310,000 students have participated in HEPPP projects, with additional students supported in schools and other institutions.
  • At least 2,913 partner organisations participated in HEPPP outreach activities.
  • More than 40 per cent of projects and expenditure have been targeted at assisting low SES students transition into, engage with and progress through university.
  • Around 40 per cent of projects have worked with external partners, usually schools, to increase low SES applications to, offers from and commencements at university.
  • The remaining HEPPP activity includes projects that have focused on pathways to university, the admissions process, transitioning out of university and research to improve the effectiveness and impact of low SES equity practices in higher education.

Current HEPPP

The legislative authority for HEPPP is provided by the Higher Education Support Act 2003 and the HEPPP guidelines are contained in the Other Grants Guidelines (Education) 2012.

HEPPP has three components:

  • Participation
  • Partnerships
  • National Priorities Pool

Participation Component

The Participation component of HEPPP provides funding to universities to increase the participation of domestic students from low SES backgrounds in accredited undergraduate qualifications, and support the retention and success of those students. Funding is allocated to universities by formula based on the number of students from low SES backgrounds enrolled at each university.

Participation funding allocated to each university is shown in the following spreadsheet:

Partnerships Component

The Partnerships component of HEPPP provides funding to universities to raise the aspirations and build the capacity of people from low SES backgrounds to participate in higher education, by developing activities in partnership with primary and secondary schools, VET providers, other universities, State and Territory governments, community groups and other stakeholders.

Since 2013 funding has been allocated to universities by formula based on the number of students from low SES backgrounds enrolled at each university. Previously most Partnerships funding was allocated through competitive grants rounds. Projects funded through this component can be found on the following pages:

National Priorities Pool

The National Priorities Pool component provides funding for projects that support the more effective implementation of HEPPP nationally and at the institutional level.


2017 National Priorities Pool projects

The Department will commission the following projects in 2017 under the National Priorities Pool

Project Title


HEPPP Evaluation Framework

This project will develop a national HEPPP evaluation framework to structure and guide overall evaluation of the HEPPP, as well as quality improvement and impact evaluations of HEPPP activities. The evaluation framework will support the development of an evidence base to establish the impact of HEPPP-funded equity interventions. It will be implemented from 2018.

Equity Research and Innovation Panel

This project will establish an expert, academic panel to provide strategic advice on equity research and trial initiatives.

Economies of scale in supporting low SES and other disadvantaged students

This project will identify the additional costs of supporting higher education students from low SES or other disadvantaged backgrounds compared to other students, and whether there are economies or diseconomies of scale in delivering support.

Widening Participation Longitudinal Study – Phase 2 – Implementation

This project will implement the Widening Participation Longitudinal Study for a pilot period of four years, with the option of continuing the study. This important longitudinal study will allow the Government to gather detailed, longitudinal data to inform access and participation policy development and evaluation of equity programs. The project will implement a design developed by the Institute for Social Science Research at the University of Queensland, under a feasibility study previously funded by the National Priorities Pool.

Australian Higher Education Equity Ranking

This project will investigate the feasibility of developing a ranking of universities drawing on a suite of equity performance indicators. Like the Quality Indicators for Learning and Teaching measures of teaching quality, publishing a ranking of equity performance will form an incentive to improve institutional focus and raise the profile of inclusive equity practice within universities.

Individual-based socio-economic disadvantage measure

This project will determine the feasibility of employing an individual-based measure, in comparison to the current place-based measure, to identify socio-economic disadvantage to ensure that university support targets students from low SES backgrounds most effectively.

Publication of National Priorities Pool research

Multiple research projects, jointly worth $15 million, have already been funded through the National Priorities Pool. This project will consolidate these existing research reports and place them in the context of other known equity research for promulgation on the department’s website.

Professional Development in equity interventions for school teachers

All school teachers must complete around 20 hours of professional learning each year that meets national requirements. This professional learning must be additional to their normal duties and can be formal or informal learning. This project will establish professional learning modules for school teachers that meet agreed national standards administered by the Australian Institute for Teaching and School Leadership. The modules will support teachers in raising the aspirations and improving the academic skills of their students to facilitate their entry to higher education. Professional learning that meets these agreed national standards will facilitate uptake by schools and teachers to meet annual professional learning requirements.


Seed Funding for Australian Indigenous Mentoring Experience (AIME) Expansion

This project would support the continued expansion of the AIME mentoring program which was commissioned from 2016.


2016 National Priorities Pool

$4.26 million of 2016 National Priorities Pool funding has been awarded to 23 projects from universities across Australia, for projects that aim to improve the policy basis and on the ground delivery of the HEPPP. These projects also focus on reducing barriers to higher education for students from low socio-economic status (SES) backgrounds from regional and remote Australia. 




HEPPP Access and Participation Plans

Universities provide a three year Access and Participation Plan that outlines the institution's suite of strategies for increasing access, participation and success by people from the following groups:

  • people from low socioeconomic backgrounds
  • people with disability
  • Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people
  • people from rural and remote areas
  • people from a non-English speaking background and
  • women in non-traditional areas of study

2015-2017 Access and Participation Plans

Further information

For further information, please contact the department at equity@education.gov.au